Advice on setting up a new guitar

safesphere
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Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by safesphere » Sat Dec 22, 2018 6:50 am

I've had a new Ramirez Studio 3 (a successor of 4NE) for a few month. I keep it tuned at 50% humidity in the original case. It tunes fine, but not absolutely precise. For example, if I tune the 4th harmonic on the 6th string (E) to match the 1st string, then the 5th harmonic of the 6th string (touched at the 4th fret) should match the 1st string played at the 4th fret (G-sharp). It roughly matches, but not quite exactly.

Today I tried tuning the guitar slightly lower as a test with A = 432 Hz instead of 440 Hz. The sound tone actually worsened, but the guitar got perfectly in tune. The harmonics described above matched to a stunning precision and all major chords sounded super crisp.

I need to achieve the same perfect setup at the normal tuning of A = 440 Hz. My first thought is to try strings of different brands and tensions to see if some happen to be a perfect match. This is a bit complicated by the fact that the Studio 3 comes with a carbon fiber 3rd string (G) while the rest are nylon.

Another idea is to lower the height of the saddle by, say, a half millimeter or less. This way I may kill two birds with one stone, as I also would prefer a slightly lower action. It is currently set to 3mm (1st) / 4mm (6th). It feels OK, but slightly lower may be better. However, I have no experience sanding down the saddle. I understand its bottom should be at the right angle to sit flat in the slot, so some kind of slotted holder would be needed for sanding.

I know, a typical advice is to take the guitar to a local luthier who would set it up for a fee. However, my case seems rather minor, as even just slightly lowering the tension puts the guitar in a perfect alignment. Plus the setup will depend on the type of the strings and I don't want to go to a luthier every time I change the strings. Instead, I'd rather learn if I can make minor adjustments myself as needed.

My question is, given the symptoms above, is my theory correct that the adjustment can be made either by using a lower tension strings (e.g. a different brand) or by lowering the height of the saddle? I would greatly appreciate any relevant informatuon, tips, or insight. Thank you!
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Sat Dec 22, 2018 5:22 pm

The G sharp harmonic will never be perfectly in tune because it is a natural overtone, not an equally tempered (e.g. as per the frets). Quite why you found it was in tune at a lower pitch I don't know, I will experiment later, but in principle changing pitch should not change the matter. I've played at all kinds of pitch, usually either 440 or 415, but also 432, just to see, and have not found such a thing happen.

Do try different strings. But it should not affect this question.

Many people wonder about lowering the action. I always advise against; it will make the guitar less tone-full and more prone to buzzing. With some more budget guitars one can find that the action is set high as a quick and cheap way to make sure it does not buzz all over the place, but I cannot think this would be the case with anything with a Ramirez label in it. Your description of the action as it is, assuming you are measuring from top of fret to bottom of string, is pretty much standard and I would not fool with it.
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Christopher Langley
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Re: Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by Christopher Langley » Sat Dec 22, 2018 5:49 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Sat Dec 22, 2018 5:22 pm
I would not fool with it.
Been there. Done it.

If you lower it be prepared to raise it back up after realizing your mistake.
Why is the bed never made?

safesphere
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Re: Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by safesphere » Sat Dec 22, 2018 10:20 pm

Christopher Langley wrote:
Sat Dec 22, 2018 5:49 pm
Been there. Done it.
If you lower it be prepared to raise it back up after realizing your mistake.
Hi Christopher, thanks for your insight! Can you elaborate what action you had before and after and what specific problem the change has caused? I was thinking of lowering the action just slightly, say by 0.2mm, but after hearing these opinions of experience, I'll think twice and then some to see if I can get away without doing it at all.
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simonm
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Re: Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by simonm » Sat Dec 22, 2018 10:32 pm

No problem to experiment with the action. Go to e - b a y or similar and buy a couple of saddle blanks. You could even use plastic ones for a test as they are easier to work with and if you like the results repeat with a bone. Keep the existing saddle to pop back in if you don't like the change and do the work on the new ones. There is no harm in having two slightly different saddles that you can pop in and out as required but do keep the original for reference.

If you make the saddle too low you will get buzzing on one or more strings. In the range you are mentioning I doubt if there would be any other symptoms.

safesphere
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Re: Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by safesphere » Sat Dec 22, 2018 10:58 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Sat Dec 22, 2018 5:22 pm
The G sharp harmonic will never be perfectly in tune because it is a natural overtone, not an equally tempered (e.g. as per the frets).
Hi Stephen, thanks for your advice, I appreciate it! Yes, I understand the logarithmic scale very well and can calculate the frequency of the beats expected between the natural and tempered G sharp. So yes, it is expected, but in reality thins are more complicated. For example, the distance between the 12th fret and the saddle is longer than a half of the open string, because the 12th fret is played with a higher tension due to the action. However, the action measured at the 4th fret would be 2.5 times lower than at the 12th, if the bridge weren't higher than a fret. So there are more parameters to consider than just tempered vs. natural.

This discovery yesterday took me by surprise, as I didn't expect these notes to match exactly. I simply wanted to test the "432 Hz conspiracy theory" and tuned the guitar to 432, 440, and 448 Hz to compare. The 432 and 448 versions sounded substantially and equally worse than 440 on my guitar, but an unexpected side effect was that the guitar was perfectly in tune at 432, less so at 440, and proportionally worse at 448. Clearly this has to do with the dependence of the open string length on the tension. The string tension can be reduced by (1) tuning down to 432, but it jus sounds worse for some reason (resonances I guess), (2) using different strings, or (3) very slightly lowering the action (not a good option, based on your feedback).

BTW, the effect wasn't limited to G sharp. Other chords also sounded super crisp. The guitar just sounded as if it wasn't tempered, quite shocking, but in a very good way :) All I need now is to get the same result at 440 Hz...
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safesphere
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Re: Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by safesphere » Sat Dec 22, 2018 11:11 pm

simonm wrote:
Sat Dec 22, 2018 10:32 pm
No problem to experiment with the action. Go to e - b a y or similar and buy a couple of saddle blanks.
Hi Simon, this was exactly my thought and I picked up a bone saddle recently at a local store for about $5. Sems a good quality, made in South Korea. What scares me though is that the original saddle profile is somewhat curved plus I read that the front and back angles matter, as well as the radius at the top. So how do I reproduce exactly the same profile? Just by a visual comparison and sanding or are there better tricks or techniques? Thanks for your help!
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Sun Dec 23, 2018 11:10 am

safesphere wrote:
Sat Dec 22, 2018 10:58 pm
Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Sat Dec 22, 2018 5:22 pm
The G sharp harmonic will never be perfectly in tune because it is a natural overtone, not an equally tempered (e.g. as per the frets).
Hi Stephen, thanks for your advice, I appreciate it! Yes, I understand the logarithmic scale very well and can calculate the frequency of the beats expected between the natural and tempered G sharp. ....

BTW, the effect wasn't limited to G sharp. Other chords also sounded super crisp. The guitar just sounded as if it wasn't tempered, quite shocking, but in a very good way :) All I need now is to get the same result at 440 Hz...
I just tested this, on a Ramirez as it happens, and they was no improvement in the tuning, and specifically, that harmonic was as relatively flat at 432 as it was at 440. Whatever is going on, interesting as it may be, is probably an artifact of those specific strings, and is highly unlikely to ever translate to other pitches, or indeed to survive the next string change.

But it would be interesting if you could demonstrate what you are finding in a video if possible, showing the tuning as it sounds at 440 and then at 432, if at all possible with a tuner in view. I could do it here but all it would demonstrate would the usual, no change. And this Ramirez doesn't much like 432 either!
Simon Ambridge Series 40 (2005)
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Re: Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by simonm » Sun Dec 23, 2018 11:42 am

One other obvious test here is to try a somewhat lower tension string. So may try a set from the same series but one tension level lower. However, just remember, that words like high,low, medium tension mean little within a single range of strings and absolutely nothing once you compare across manufacturers.

safesphere
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Re: Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by safesphere » Sun Dec 23, 2018 4:24 pm

simonm wrote:
Sun Dec 23, 2018 11:42 am
One other obvious test here is to try a somewhat lower tension string. So may try a set from the same series but one tension level lower. However, just remember, that words like high,low, medium tension mean little within a single range of strings and absolutely nothing once you compare across manufacturers.
How can I find out what type of strings Ramirez (or their subcontractors) put on the Studio 3 model? I only know that the 3rd string is supposed to be carbon fiber (and it looks a bit different, not shiny).
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safesphere
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Re: Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by safesphere » Thu Dec 27, 2018 4:40 am

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Sun Dec 23, 2018 11:10 am
I just tested this, on a Ramirez as it happens, and they was no improvement in the tuning, and specifically, that harmonic was as relatively flat at 432 as it was at 440.
Hi Stephen,

I've since have repeated the test, but also with no luck. Not sure what happened the first time, perhaps the moons of Jupiter were in just the right alignment or rather a more prosaic reason (it wasn't alcohol, I swear). I even demonstrated it to others at that time. I guess, the meaningful outcome here is a question if G-sharp (and possibly some other relevant guitar notes) can be flatten a bit closer to the natural harmonics (from 1.26 to 1.25) by using a proper combination of strings, action, and saddle adjustment. I'll try modeling these parameters on a computer to see if optimization is possible. (It's unlikely, so no illusions, just a hope.) In the meantime, I'll try different strings and make some test saddles.

Thanks again for your help!
Alex

:merci:
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Scott Phillips
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Re: Advice on setting up a new guitar

Post by Scott Phillips » Thu Dec 27, 2018 5:45 am

I tried to reply to this thread, but was unable to. Sent you a PM safesphere.

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